Updated: Jun 21
Since we have launched our business, The Retail Duo has been non-stop. We love the momentum and fast pace and when you find your niche and are open to new possibilities, it is truly exciting! At times that means wading through the work and shelving time to have fun, but we find it essential to find time for the little things, such as inspiration and travel, that can keep one going! It's all about creating moments and making memories.
Diane doing the token pose along the Chicago River in front of The Mart.
NeoCon has been on our professional radar for a long time now and we decided this year that we would make it our priority to head to Chicago and take on The Mart. Our knowledge of commercial grade furniture and trends has been something that we have wanted to dedicate more time to, and this was the perfect way to efficiently take care of that. On our list was to expand out network for wall coverings, acoustic panels, and commercial grade furniture. While in Chicago we also timed it perfectly with RICE (Retail Innovation Conference). Here we break down our top insights:
INSIGHT #1: Curtain Craze
We have been big fans of the mixing of residential elements and details within office spaces for a while now. We are both living hybrid work modules in our own lives, and we understand the need for comfort, and inspiring objects around us to inspire! Of course, this makes sense when brands are wanting to make existing sterile office spaces, inviting and comfortable. We have been trying to integrate curations into our projects and now we have confirmed what we knew all along...investing in well-designed curtains and sheers only make the lighting and overall space that much more appealing. Curtains add drama, elegance, and texture.
Showrooms always highlight the latest trends but with the River Walk as the backdrop, they are even more appealing!
INSIGHT #2: Cacti & Blooms
From green plants to fresh cut flowers, and cactus, we continue to see the need for flora and fauna in the almost any built environment. We are happy to see cactus making a statement because of the low maintenance factor, and even though the DUO both have green thumbs, plants and accents that can live long lives are of course worth the investment. Cactus add texture and we love this exciting new element, especially when paired with stones and rocks.
We personally find beauty in the way in which materials and supplies are displayed!
INSIGHT #3: Texture & Pattern
We also noticed the trend of being a bit more daring when layering patterns and experimenting with colour. Gone are the days of boring fabrics and only one material. The way that we noticed many of the top showrooms mixing metals, patterns, and designs was very welcoming. Perhaps this is because we are seeing a blend of various age groups and ways of working in the office environment, and so appealing to many style segments and demographics is easier with layered pattern and textures.
Brian Wooden for Haworth: A collar with GAN rugs. Stunning!
INSIGHT #4: Maker Moments
Perhaps one of our favourite observations was showcasing the people behind the designs. Not only where designers and founders showcased but so where the actual artisans and makers who use their skills to create beautiful pieces. We loved the actual live demonstrations of people and technology creating everyday pieces. Post COVID-19 we have noted the appeal of the behind-the-scenes process of creating products, but also the human element and the stories of who exactly are creating these beautiful works of art. Haworth particularly created elevated moments where they coined spaces on the showroom floor "MakerSpaces".
The DUO ended their time in the windy city at RICE, where we walked the trade show floor. Digital innovation is something that we try to keep a pulse on and attending conferences that showcase retail leaders, and also foster networking opportunities are always on our radar. The PAVE Booth was a highlight as always, and we were so proud of the young entrepreneurs, Sydney & Andrey White who have created VERTICAL LEDGE. Their brand, which is a series of custom, bespoke and minimalist fixtures have been providing support to brands since 2018. Can you say - AM-AZING! You had us hooked on the concept and the branding! Please give them a read and a follow: @vertical_ledge
The most detailed mini booth and samples one ever did see! Obsessed!
Other highlights: Retail Design Institute Chicago - RDI at RICE at VU Rooftop and our personalized Retail Tour, spending time looking at the new Walgreens concept store and the McDonalds World Headquarters. Of course, live jazz and blues, paired with a few lovely dinners and patio nights always help to make a trip memorable! Chicago: we will be back soon!! XOXO The DUO
Getting in our steps morning, noon, and night along the River Walk while spotting some yachts!
The DUO happy and vibing the music at ANDY"S JAZZ BAR - a must see!